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Making money with webcomics. Seriously!

5 Questions: How To Ask for Support?

There are basically two kinds of support webcomics creators need: moral/emotional and financial. Making webcomics can be a tough slog. It can seem, especially in the early years of a comic, that we're working in a vacuum and that maybe no one's reading. But, when you do get that occasional email from a fan - whoa, what a feeling! But when traffic stats are low or merchandise isn't selling or we get a terrible review, we need support and encouragement that keep us going.

5 Questions: Are You Reading More Comics or Fewer?

It's a tough time to be in the entertainment industry. Our Internet-enabled, digital environment has led to more things than ever competing for our attention. And a lot of those things are entertainment, be they movies, TV, video games, websites, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else.

5 Questions: Do You Retail?

In many ways, webcomics are primarily online (I mean, hey, it's right there in the name). The comic's there, interactions between creators and fans are there (though offline, too), revenue is generated by ads, even the physical products are sold online. As a consequence, a lot of webcomics tend not to have a physical presence beyond merchandise and con appearances.

The Trouble with Social Media and the New Internet

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else that is popular this second are pretty awesome. However, the very thing that makes it awesome can also cause some issues for the modern day webcomic professional. There is now a higher amount of information available to us than before. This means that there are more avenues for us to get our brand recognized. YAY!

Unfortunately, the thing that makes social media such a great tool is also burying many new creators. The noise on the internet is so high that I believe it is harder for a new creator to be heard today than it was 10 years ago. Back when there were only a handful of creators online, it was a no brainer to run into everyone at least once. Now, it is not the case. I have met rabid webcomics fans who have never heard of Penny Arcade.

Today, readers like for information to come to them, rather than checking physical sites every day. We have reached information overload. A high number of people I speak with have told me that they and most of their friends now use RSS aggregators or get their information from Facebook and Twitter. I have fans who read my site every single day that missed the GIANT banner on the top of the page and frequent blog posts about the fact that their favorite creator is running AN ENTIRE WEBCOMICS CONVENTION.

Following this relevation, I conducted an informal experiment where I would post happenings on my Facebook and Twitter. Later that month I would strike up conversation with specific people who were very big fans of my work to see how much they had engaged with the information. I had found that most people would ignore the passive postings and almost all of them would engage, support, and spread the word about things that I spoke to them directly about.

The catch, is, you can't be fake about it. You have to love what you do and care about who you are speaking to. I always ignore automatic and sterile messages. I will always reply to people who are genuinely saying "hello".

The best way is to really believe in what you are doing and to treat everyone like you would want to be treated. This in itself stands out in stark contrast to the firehose of information that is today's internet. As corny as it sounds, it seems that today's best weapon is to love the journey, make some new friends, network with your peers, and never give up. I wish I could give an easier recipe for success. The unfortunate truth is that it is not easy, but it will happen if you don't give up! :D

5 Questions: Who Is Your Core Audience?

For a webcomic to be successful, it has to connect to a core audience. The core audience is the comic's natural readership, a defined group, the people who buy merchandise and recommend the comic to their friends. Core audiences are broad descriptions, of course (any single person in the group won't exactly fit the description), but they're useful in understanding a comic and its readers. For instance, Penny Arcade appeals to folks who enjoy video games (among other things). Hark! A Vagrant readers are educated, and have an interest in history and irreverent sense of humor. Understanding this helps determine what kind of content and merchandise may be well received by those comics' audiences.

Work! A Rant

In the first of his writing advice posts, Alexander Danner quoted a piece of advice aspiring writers often get. I paraphrase instead of looking it up because I've heard it often enough:

"Write every day! Treat it like a job! A job wouldn't allow for exceptions, would it?"

Part of that is useful advice. But it's kind of difficult to separate the crop from the crap. Alexander already said everything you need to hear about the "write every day" part, so I'll concentrate on the job thing.

What makes work a job? As opposed to a hobby? (Apart from pay? 'Cause that would be too easy.) I've been through lots of discussions about what a job is since I finished my studies and didn't seek a paying job right away. What I didn't get from those, I got from magazines targeting frustrated office workers. I think I've heard enough to distill some kind of definition out of what people with a job have to say about jobbing:

  • It's for the money, and for the money only.
  • You work for a boss who doesn't understand you.
  • Customers are idiots.
  • It's stressful.
  • It's eight hours a day. At least.
  • It's unappreciated.
  • It's repetitive rather than creative.
  • Work time is the opposite of spare time.

I could go on, but the canon is clear: A job, to a lot of people, is doing something for money that you despise or at least wouldn't do otherwise, usually in an environment that drains you of your creativity. Of course I'm totally exaggerating and ignoring all the great creative freelance jobs. I'm really after a meme here, rather than a sociological panorama. And the belief is really out there: People have actually told me that labor isn't labor unless it stinks. As opposed to the cool, creative stuff I do, which therefore must be a hobby, and could I please go cut my hair now and get a real job?

So, that's how I should treat my comics work? With despise? I don't think so.

Of course, there's a lot to be said in favor of treating it like a job. Even if you don't actually want to make money with it. If you put in your labor and develop a work ethic, you'll get better at it. And it'll help you evolve from the mind set that claims you're just a hobbyist who won't ever get anywhere with it. Which is the first step in actually becoming a professional. If that's your aim, it's all the more important to treat your comics work like it's a job.

Flattred yet?

Last week, Flattr went from beta to full release. You don't need an invitation for it anymore. Not that invitations were hard to get or anything. But now all you have to do is sign up.

In case the buzz went past you (which, despite the Comixtalk and BoingBoing coverage, is pretty likely for non-Europeans, statistically): Flattr is the newest of several sites (Kachingle being another) combining the regular Web 2.0 "like" button with a tip jar. So you don't just give your thumbs-up; you make it pay, too. Peer-to-peer patronage, if you will. Flattr was co-founded by Peter Sunde, formerly known as "one of the guys behind the Pirate Bay". (A fact a lot of commenters seem to have issues with. But I won't get into that here.)

Here's how it works, roughly: Every month, you pay a certain amount to Flattr (at least 2 Euros), then spend the rest of the month clicking your peers' Flattr buttons. (If you don't click any sites, the money goes to charity. Either way, it'll go. It wouldn't work otherwise.) At the end of the month, your 'stock' will be shared among all the sites you 'flattred'. The more you clicked, the less of it they get, but that's okay - it just means there are more people on Flattr to spread your clicks over, and they're all spreading their 2€ just like you are.

From what I hear, the beta phase has been quite successful for some sites. In Germany, some heavy bloggers and at least one major newspaper made hundreds of Euros. A lot of webcomics people use it, too, and from what I hear on Twitter, they're very enthusiastic about flattring one another. It's too early to say anything conclusive about the system, though - several bloggers have installed it "just to see if it works", but don't seem to have come around with any results yet. Blogger Giorgio Fochesato started an extra blog about his experience, but that was only two months ago.

Me? I'm still having my doubts.

Wowio Buys

MarketWatch is reporting the Wowio bought from Platinum Studios.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Snarky commentary from Digital Strips and FLEEN.

Comix Talk for Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Culture Pop by Seth Kushnar

Seth Kushnar's CulturePop debuted this week.  The first one is about Alyssa Loveless talking about performing and her music.  I really dig Kushnar's website Graphic NYC, and this comic project looks very promising.  Different vibe but its somewhat similar to a great journalistic comic called CulturePulp by Mike Russell.

BUSINESS: Tom Tomorrow's current comic is a funny take on the Internet but a little bitter about the changes waste the Internet is laying to existing business models.  Tomorrow and Reuben Bolling are two extremely talented cartoonists that should be able to make it in the Internet world.  Maybe they need their own Robert Khoo business guru but if nothing else they ought to talk to Jeff Rowland at Topataco and see what they can do with taking control of their merchandizing opportunities.

LEGAL: Linda Joy Kattwinkel, Esq., Intellectual Property and Arts Attorney at Owen, Wickersham & Erickson writes a post on what to do when your artwork is being ripped off.  Good advice.

AWARDS: James Hudnall writes about his experience being a judge for the Eisner nominations this year.

MILESTONES: Shaenon Garrity reports that Daniel Merlin Goodbrey has concluded his webcomic All Knowledge Is Strange and started a new webcomic 100 Planets.

REVIEWS: reviews this month's Zuda contestants. (h/t

HYPE: has a bit more and pix on the upcoming book Kill Shakespeare.  Plus a take from a Shakespeare scholar.

NOT WEBCOMICS: has a round-up of the recent uncovering of work Jack King Kirby did for an animation house in the 80s.  Neat to see even more ideas from the comics legend.

Comix Talk for Thursday, March 11, 2010

 Refuge of the Heart by Ben CostaGood morning y'all, I almost skipped updating the site today but than I saw this: Josh Lesnick's WEBCOMIC PONY PARTY.  'Nuff said.

DEAD TREES: Ben Costa posts that he won a xeric grant and has the cover art to the book he'll be self-publishing, Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk, Vol. 1: Refuge of the Heart.  I'm looking forward to this book.

Also another installment from Tyler Page on his experiences in self-publishing his comic Nothing BetterPart 1 is here and part 2 is here.  (A part 3 is coming)

BUSINESS: The Daily Cross Hatch has an interview with Bellen creator Box Brown about the fundraising website Kickstarter.  In related news, James Kochalka's Kickstarter drive to fund a video game he thought up has met its goal so GAME ON.

COPYRIGHT: Copyright is a weird thing sometimes in this age of MEDIA MEDIA MEDIA all around us.  Take this example of a post examining Dave Devries series of paintings based on children's drawings.  What's the kid's (c) versus what's Devries?  You might think there's an obvious answer but take the questions seriously and I bet you start to think a bit harder about it.

REVIEW: El Santo reviews Natalie Dee

JUSTIFY MY HYPE: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel.  Also 'nuff said.